Part 3: The Big Day
I woke up feeling ok before the day of my surgery, quite calm in fact. I took for a beautiful scenic walk with my mother, sister and our delightful puppy Lulu along the waterfront.
That evening I ran myself a well deserved overflowing hot bubble bath.
I had a moment in the bath as I looked at my breasts and realized this would be the last time I would see them before my surgery tomorrow.
I felt the lump in my right one, I knew immediately I had to bid them farewell. No one wants a deliciously red shiny apple with a worm in it, what good is that? the worm, the invasion, the Cancer whatever you wanna call it... had to go!
I listened to some relaxing music and did my meditation. Some emotion must have been triggered because that night I woke up crying in my sleep. All I could remember was waking up from surgery and feeling devastated as I looked at my flat chest. My subconscious must have been preparing me emotionally.
The morning of my surgery I was up at 7:10 am I was scheduled to go to Christian Barnard Hospital at 8:30 am for a special dye injection that would help the Dr's identify the cancerous cells in the breasts and lymph nodes during surgery. It was quick and painless and I went to Vincent Pallotti Hospital where I was to be admitted for surgery at 10 am.
My brother kindly drove me and we arrived at 9 am. I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink since the night before, so grabbing a coffee wasn’t an option. We sat in his car and listened to some old classic tunes, he played me “ I say a little prayer for you” and Marvin Gaye’s “What's going on?”, two very fitting tunes! I put on my new favourite musical song from the opening of Smash “Let Me Be Your Star” that song makes me so happy! I sang it to my heart's content. We had such fun together and he lay with me on my hospital bed with 2 hours to kill and carried on entertaining me.
My surgeon arrived with a big smile and asked me to get ready and into my hospital gown, we completely lost track of time. I put on the gown I said
“Right let’s get this show on the road”!
They put my hospital bands on and wheeled me into surgery, my mother and my brother walked alongside me. I thought “ deep breath, here we go! " My mother started crying which made me cry and I’m not going to lie a little fear crept in as it was a 5 hr operation. Wiping away the tears my brother shouted out “bye Dans, have fun, enjoy yourself”! it was so inappropriate that I couldn’t help but laugh. I guess everyone has a different way of dealing.
My anaesthetist was quite a character, like a quirky wizard of sorts. He made me giggle and feel rather at ease. The OR was freezing and they lay me on a warm airbag which was like a heated lilo to keep my body temperature regulated. I gazed into my handsome plastic surgeon Dr Pienaar's kind blue eyes as he told me to have a wonderful dream and just like that, I was out for the count.
I don’t even remember waking up in the ward, but I called for my mother who was waiting anxiously the whole time and after I saw her I fell fast asleep. The nurses were lovely, the food not so much but I had wonderful friends who came to visit and made me feel loved and supported. My pain wasn’t too bad as pethidine did work wonders.
I did my meditations every day envisioning myself as healthy, healed and strong. I came out of hospital 2 and a half days later on Saturday. My body was draining the fluid well as it usually can take 5- 10 days for the drains to come out. My Dr didn’t see much point in keeping me there. So they took the drains out and sent me home.
I came home and had a proper shower forgetting that I wasn't supposed to get my bandages wet. So off I went back to the hospital that Saturday night to change the dressings.
"I thought I would cry when I saw the scars, but I didn't. I knew this was temporary and I would get a new pair of breasts and a new nipple by the end of the year. I was just glad the cancer was out."
The *expanders were in and I had a B cup on the left side and an A cup on the right side where the tumour was. So I had some bumps which were better than being completely flat-chested even though they were uneven.
It's amazing though, how you just handle in ways you didn't even know you could. As if you're allocated just enough strength by the grace of God to carry you through that day. You just carry on, move forward one day at a time on to the next step, and the next and the next one ...to recovery.
My Mother was amazing and came to look after me that night. The next day was 02.02.2020 an amazing numerological day and I had wonderful friends come and visit me. I felt positive and in good spirits, for most of the week.
I was so grateful to have my mother looking after me. However, a few days in I became impatient with her. I felt really bad as I knew it wasn't her, it was a reflection of my mood and being irritated that I couldn’t do anything for myself. She literally had to lift me up to help get me out of bed. I also had to learn to surrender control and allow people to help me. I was so grateful for her unconditional love and support. acting as my nurse, maid, cook and everything! I don’t know what I would do without her.
Love & Health
*About Breast Reconstruction Using a Tissue Expander and Implant
After your mastectomy (surgery to remove your breast), you will have a breast reconstruction surgery using a tissue expander. A tissue expander is an empty breast implant that your surgeon will fill with normal saline over 6 to 8 weeks until it reaches the breast size that you and your surgeon decided on. In this type of reconstruction, your surgeon will either make a pocket under a large muscle in your chest and place a tissue expander in that space or place the expander above the large muscle. Your surgeon will discuss the placement of the expander with you at your pre surgical consultation.
About 4 to 8 weeks after the tissue expansion is finished, you will have a second surgery to remove the tissue expander and insert the permanent breast implant. If you will be having chemotherapy or radiation therapy, your doctor will tell you when your permanent implant will be placed.
Some people also want to have nipple and areola (the brown or pink circle around your nipple) reconstruction. If you decide to have nipple reconstruction, you’ll need to wait about 2 to 4 months after the permanent breast implant is placed.